“Anxiety is caused by a lack of control, organization, preparation, and action.” – David Kekich
Sometime in the last year or so, I started seeing dozens of pins on Pinterest referring to this thing called a Bullet Journal. I had never heard of a Bullet Journal and usually just kept scrolling. I thought it was some diary type of journaling that I just wasn’t interested in.
After seeing it over and over again for months I finally decided to click on some links and explore this Bullet Journaling thing to see what everyone was talking about. It turns out it doesn’t really have anything to do with the diary type of journaling like I thought.
A Bullet Journal is actually a planner. A very simple, very customized planner system that is most amazing for my list-loving self. In the past, I created a to-do list each day, but it was usually on any old scrap of paper I had nearby. Which often meant I would have a to-do list in my office, one upstairs, one in the car, and another on my phone. I’d sometimes lose my list, run out of room on my list, or forget about the important stuff that was actually on that other list in the other room. I felt like I was so organized because I had lists upon lists, but really I was just making more chaos for myself.
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What exactly is a Bullet Journal?
A Bullet Journal is simply a notebook in which you keep your entire brain. It is an analog (i.e. “old school”) organizational method that has transformed my life and makes me so happy. Sure, there is an app for that, but I have the most extreme iPhone addiction in the world, so it actually isn’t at all beneficial for me to put my iPhone in my hands when I’m trying to be productive.
Because, oh, bright shiny Pinterest needs to be checked!
And squirrel! I wonder what has happened in Facebook land since I last logged on 30 seconds ago.
Maybe I should get some inspiration before I tackle my to-do list, I better go check out the pretty pictures on Instagram.
You see? It’s best to keep productivity far, far removed from my phone, or even my computer. That can be a dangerous place.
The other part of the Bullet Journal’s “old school-ness” that I love is that you get to physically write stuff down. Science has proven over and over again that physically using your hand and a pen and some paper to write something down is actually way more beneficial for helping your brain remember. I’m also a huge fan of physically checking things off my to-do list. It is so much more fulfilling to check off items with my pen than to tap a screen to mark an item complete.
So why not just go to the store and buy a planner or order one of those elaborate fancy ones that they sell everywhere online these days? Because none of them actually do exactly what I want. Some of them just have a time blocked day with no room for lists, some include way too many features and I end up feeling overwhelmed, they’re way too big to fit in my purse, and the list goes on. Physical planners are a wonderful thing, but no matter how many options there are, I just can’t seem to find a planner that works exactly the way I want it to. And if I find one that is close, the price tag is ridiculously high.
What does a Bullet Journal include?
In order to start a bullet journal, you need a notebook and a pen. I’m going to share a lot of resources in a minute and you will find that there are some extreme bullet journal fanatics that use a lot of tools, gadgets, and pretty things to create beautiful works of art which they call their Bullet Journal. If beauty and fancy and tools and lots of time is your thing, then by all means, go to town with your fancy self. I, however, am more into simple and plain. I have a Bullet Journal that only uses a notebook (this dotted Leuchtturm1917 to be exact) and a pen. Well, actually I have a lot of pens in various pretty colors, but they aren’t entirely necessary.
You can make your bullet journal as fancy or as simple as you want. Since you’ve got a plain old boring notebook, the sky is the limit. Essentially, you want to make the Bullet Journal work for you. So create it to include all of the things your brain and your life need to succeed. For most people, this includes a monthly page that works like your monthly calendar, possibly a weekly page to plan out each week, and most importantly (at least in my opinion), your daily log- also known as your daily to-do list.
You might also want to include an index (yes, a table of contents for your to-do lists, it’s actually pretty amazing to have), a goals list, shopping list, meal plan, mindmaps, random doodle page, meeting notes, budget pages, and the list can go on and on. Many people add gorgeous handwriting, washi tape, and colorful doodles throughout each page, but that is entirely optional. Some people create intricate calendars and grids each month, while others stick to simple lists. The beauty of a Bullet Journal, as I’ve said repeatedly, is that you get to do whatever fits your fancy.
Included in my bullet journal, I have a page for the previous month’s accomplishments, a page for the next month’s goals, a calendar page for the month, a monthly meal plan, blogging pages to plan out my content and social media schedules, a monthly gratitude list that I add at least 3 things to each day, a habit tracker, a weekly brain dump of all possible to-do list items, and then a daily to-do list and plan. On various pages, I also create random other lists that I feel the need to create like quotes to remember, books I want to read, things I need to buy, and more.
What are the benefits of a Bullet Journal for working moms?
As working moms, we tend to play a lot of roles in life. I am a mom, a wife, an employee, a blogger, a friend, and a church person, among other somewhat less demanding responsibilities. There are things for me to do in my life that relate to each of these important areas. It can be difficult to keep everything straight and balanced and organized. So often it feels like if I get ahead in one area, I start failing in all of the other areas. I’m sure you can relate.
With my bullet journal, I can keep track of everything in one place. I used to have a calendar for work, a calendar for home stuff, a calendar for my blog, and as I said, a to-do list in every room. Now, everything is in one place. I just use different colored pens, and in some cases different pages to keep it all separated, but still together. (Full disclosure: I still use Google Calendar to schedule major appointments and events, but my daily plan and schedule lives entirely in my bullet journal.)
When I’m busy at work and randomly remember that we need more shampoo, I can flip over a few pages and add it to my shopping list. If I realize I forgot to think about dinner tonight, I can easily turn to my meal plan and text my husband to ask him to start defrosting the meat. Everything my brain might need, for any area of my life is always available in my trusty little notebook. It truly is a beautiful thing.
How do I get started bullet journaling?
The official Bullet Journal website is a good resource to learn the very basics. Be sure to remember that you don’t have to follow all the “rules” of the Bullet Journal. If you don’t want to use the different bullets, future logs, or any other aspects, you don’t have to.
Here is the main getting started video to give you a taste of the basics:
Another really fantastic bullet journal resource is Boho Berry. She is one of the beautiful, fancy, intricate bullet journalers, but she has a lot of really great ideas and resources, especially if you are into pretty.
I’ve created a Bullet Journal Pinterest Board where I add all kinds of posts, tips, and tricks related to bullet journaling.
One of my favorite places to look for Bullet Journal inspiration is Instagram. You can browse through the bullet journal hashtags to get all sorts of ideas for how to set yours up and what you might want to include. Be sure to look at both #bulletjournal and #bujo (the internet shorthand word for bullet journal).
I am not into fancy and pretty with my bullet journal. I just keep it simple and write what needs to get done or remembered. However, if you are more into creativity and beauty and art, then I encourage you to make your bujo as fancy as you would like. Learn some hand lettering techniques, embellish with doodles or even stickers and washi tape. Here is a great tutorial to learn the basics of hand lettering if you’d like to give it a try.
How do I decide on a notebook?
I started my first Bullet Journal in April of this year. I literally grabbed a half-used notebook that I had laying around and turned it into a bullet journal. It worked completely fine. Please don’t feel like your Bullet Journal needs to be a major expense and certainly don’t put off starting your bullet journal simply because you can’t decide on the perfect one. Just pick one and get started. It will take you a few months to really decide how you like to set up your journal, so for now, just get a notebook and try things.
However, once I realized that this was a system that suited me, I wanted to upgrade my notebook. I did a ton of research on notebook options that would work. Everyone is different, so what was important to me, may not be important to you. I ended up settling on a Medium sized, dotted, Leuchtturm1917. I chose this particular notebook due to the size (5.75″ X 8.25″), the sturdiness, the numbered pages (makes the index work a lot easier), and the dots (instead of lines or squares).
The most popular notebooks for journals are either Leuchtturms or Moleskins. I think Moleskins are more affordable, but the Leuchtturms tend to have a couple extra features like a second ribbon bookmark and numbered pages.
What do you think about bullet journaling?
So there you have it. Now you are well informed on bullet journals. Are you intrigued and want to give it a try? What kind of planning and organizational system do you use? What is your biggest struggle when it comes to calendars and task lists? Let me know in the comments.
Today’s action step:
Whether you decide to try bullet journaling yourself or not, take a few minutes to consider your current planning system and decide if it is currently working for you or if you need to make some changes. What could you do to bring more organization to your life and schedule?